Judges' lodging costs higher than at the Ritz

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IF SOME judges working out of London were put up in Ritz hotels every time they heard a case in a provincial court, the Lord Chancellor's Department would save money.

This was the faintly absurd conclusion reached yesterday after it emerged that Lord Mackay's department would be holding a review into the pounds 3.9m spent annually on lodgings for judges in provincial English and Welsh towns.

The cost of a two-bedroomed suite at the Ritz Hotel in Piccadilly is about pounds 6,000 a week. According to the Government's own figures, released yesterday, the cost of temporary lodgings for judges on the out-of-London circuit varied from pounds 505 to pounds 10,900 a week. The average boarding cost was pounds 3,382.

Thirty-two properties are used when serious criminal or civil cases are heard outside London. Household staff are included in the staff of some properties, all, according to the Lord Chancellor's Department, designed to offer comfort, security, privacy and an environment where legal preparation can take place.

However, in the wake of concerns over public money spent on properties for top military brass, the review by Lord Mackay's department will be seen as a timely acknowledgement that judicial B & B costs may need economic attention.

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